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Dog Treat Do's and Don'ts

Dog treats can be very useful when it comes to training your dog. They are a way to reward your dog and teach him good behavior while having fun. They can even play a useful role in maintaining you dog’s dental health. Here are some tips on when and how to use treats wisely.

Different Treats for Different Dogs

Your dog’s individual tastes play the biggest role in what kind of treat you choose, but age and medical condition can affect his preferences. Puppies often prefer smaller treats, and senior dogs often prefer softer treats if they have sensitive teeth. If your dog has allergies, be mindful of ingredients; hypoallergenic treats are available for many dogs with common food allergies. If your dog is on a diet, you should avoid treats, or only use ones that are low in fat. In general, lower calorie treats are better, depending on how much exercise your dog typically gets.

Treats and Your Dog's Teeth

Treats can be very helpful in promoting good dental health.  Chewing supports strong, healthy teeth and combats bad breath in your dog. Rawhide chews are especially good because they entertain a dog while cleaning his teeth. Just be sure that your dog chews the rawhide before swallowing it so that it; otherwise he will just be taking in excess calories without actually cleaning his teeth. It’s also a good idea to supervise your dog if he’s eating a rawhide treat and taking away pieces he has chewed off in order to minimize the rare risk of choking. Dog biscuits can also help clean your dog’s teeth. Just remember, although treats have their benefits they are often sweet and high in calories; use them sparingly!

Treats and Training

The best way to teach a dog certain behaviors is through positive reinforcement; in other words, using praise and rewards to encourage a dog to repeat good behavior. Treats are one way of rewarding your dog when he does something right. When your dog obeys a command or completes a task, reward him with a treat right away so he learns to associate it with the proper action. You should use a treat that is small so your dog can eat it quickly, and so that you won’t be adding a lot of extra calories to his diet. When he is first learning the behavior, reward him frequently (i.e. 4 out of every 5 times he does it). As the behavior becomes more familiar, you can reward him less and less frequently. But don’t decrease them too quickly; give your dog enough time to grow accustomed to the behavior so he doesn’t get frustrated. Try to keep several different kinds of treats on hand so that he doesn’t become bored with one type. Although positive reinforcement is an effective method of training your dog, be careful not to reward bad behaviors; only give a treat if he has done something right.